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Children's Book Judging Is Full Steam Ahead

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embargoed until 1am Friday 8 December 2006

Judging New Zealand's Best Children's Books Of The Year Is Full Steam Ahead

Judging the best of this year's crop of children's books for the New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children & Young Adults 2007 is well underway. A judging panel of three children's book experts have had their heads down amongst the pages of over one hundred children's books during the past month, as entries have flowed in.

Keith Olsen, a South Otago-based illustrator, writer and teacher, is the convenor of this year's judging panel. Together with Ainslie Heather from Dunedin and Dylan Owen from Wellington - both with backgrounds in children's book retailing and librarianship - the members of this year's judging panel share a wealth of experience in children's book writing, illustrating and children's literacy spanning many years.

Keith Olsen's illustration work includes both fiction and non-fiction titles and he has a particular interest in book design. Keith has twice been a finalist in the Non Fiction category of the New Zealand Post Book Awards as an author, illustrator and designer. In 1998 he was the Non Fiction category winner with The Know, Sow and Grow Kids' Book of Plants written jointly with his wife, Diana Noonan. He sees the New Zealand Post Book Awards as providing a focus for a heightened interest in reading, writing, and publishing books for children and young people.

Dylan Owen works for the National Library as National Advisor for the Schools Collection in Wellington where he is actively engaged in promoting, presenting and writing on aspects of New Zealand children's literature and other resources. He is also the Picture Book Reviewer for The Dominion Post and has written for the School Journal. Dylan is a keen advocate for children's books. He is thrilled to have the opportunity to take part in the New Zealand Post Book Awards. "These awards," he says, "acknowledge our best writers and illustrators while reaffirming the importance of local publishing and our unique take on the world. I'm really thrilled to be a judge this year and to share in the passion and celebrations that surround the awards."

Ainslie Heather was the Children's Book Buyer at University Bookshop Otago for five years before becoming the Librarian at the Port Chalmers Library. In these roles, she says she has enjoyed a 'front-seat' view of New Zealand's wonderful children's books, writers and of the market for children's books. Ainslie says there have been some really exciting developments and growth in New Zealand children's literature in recent years. These changes reflect New Zealand's diverse and changing population, ideas and issues, while maintaining the tradition of high quality, imaginative writing.

Judging is across four categories - Picture Book, Non Fiction, Junior Fiction and Young Adult Fiction. Consideration is given to criteria such as creative writing or in the case of the Non Fiction category, well-authenticated data, illustrations and production values. The judges will be assisted by a Te Reo Māori advisor.

The category finalists will be announced on Thursday 8 February 2007. The winners of each category and the New Zealand Post Book of the Year will be announced on Wednesday 16 May 2007.

Children and teenagers will also have the opportunity to vote for their favourite book, selecting from the finalist titles, for the popular Children's Choice Award. Voting begins on 8 February 2007.

New Zealand Post has been a steadfast sponsor of the New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults since 1997. Their partnership has seen the awards flourish, growing from strength to strength over the last decade. New Zealand Post's support of these awards reflects their deep commitment to promoting literacy and literature throughout the country. Working closely with Booksellers New Zealand, New Zealand Post and other dedicated segments of the community actively encourage New Zealand children to read and enjoy books. For those with limited access to new works, New Zealand Post also purchases and distributes books by the New Zealand Post Book Awards finalists by supporting the Books in Homes programme each year.

The New Zealand Post Book Awards are also supported by Creative New Zealand and Book Tokens (NZ) Ltd and are administered by Booksellers New Zealand.

Ends

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